Wednesday, November 24, 2004

OD'd on Reali-Tee

Where have I been the last week, you wonder? I've been in a happier place, a place where things make sense and if I don't like the way events are turning out, I have the power to change them.

The names for this place are legion. First it was called Ambush, Pennsylvania, 1995. After that it was Washington, DC, 1997-98. Most recently it was Riverside, Maryland, date unspecified.

Now it's Sherwood, Maryland, 2019. It's a place where chaotic forces of evil wreak sporadic havoc on society, where the U.S. Department of Metaphysical Purity coordinates with the Vatican and Al Qaeda to control and eradicate humanity's new enemies--the demons and the Desperate. A place where 18-year-old chess master and aspiring Prom Queen Antonia Brennan discovers she's the daughter of the Devil.

From Labor Day through Election Day, I did not write a single word of fiction, even though [checking business card] that's what I do. It defines my sense of self. When I'm writing, I feel more me than at any other time, even as the act forces me to let go of myself.

But reality bites.

In particular, it gnaws away at creativity. When we see only what is, rather than what could be, when we consume and regurgitate the party lines over and over like copraphagous dogs, when we allow the media and the politicians to define us and divide us until we're no longer individuals, just labels with assholes--well, ain't no new synapses firing there, folks. Imagination, DOA.

I think that a fiction writer must maintain a certain distance from the real world, a certain objectivity that allows him or her to see or even experience a tragedy or heartbreak and have a small piece of the mind say, "I can use this!" The most important place must become the universe created inside one's head, at least during a first draft. It requires a certain degree of internal immersion.

But when one cares deeply about the real world--and more importantly, when one becomes involved in the real world and discovers that an individual's efforts can make a difference--it's hard to turn away. The world needs me, needs you, needs all of us to stay engaged right now. But staying engaged is not the same as becoming obsessed.

If reality is the drug, then the Internet is the needle and spoon. In the last several months, I've spent hours a day scouring the news sites, searching for signs of hope and commiserating with those who shared my beliefs. Once I started blogging, I felt like I had a responsibility not just to entertain, but to inform. And there was this nagging notion that if I turned my back for a few minutes, something terrible would happen, as if my gaze was keeping the world rightside up (Jean-Paul Sartre would have a field day with that one).

My name is Jeri Smith-Ready, and I'm addicted to reality. [Hiiii, Jeri]

I've got my 10-day pin (that's how long since I've watched CNN), and I remove the wireless card from my laptop except when I need to check my e-mail or look something up. I'm truckin' along on my first draft, which, if I really haul a-asterisk-asterisk, I'll finish by the end of this year.

Sherwood, Maryland, 2019 is a dark place. Maybe today will bring another demon attack, or maybe the DMP agents ('dumpers') will take you away for examination. Or maybe your boyfriend will decide you've become a liability to his coolness.

Don't worry, Antonia. I've got it all under control.

Monday, November 15, 2004


I can't think of a subject line for this post that won't sound dirty.

The US Supreme Court won't overturn an Oklahoma Supreme Court decision to uphold that state's ban on cockfighting. This is the absorbing sport of watching two roosters slice each other up with knives attached to their heads (all the while chanting "When you're a Jet, you're a Jet all the way").

I'm shocked and impressed that the same state who elected to the U.S. Senate a guy who says abortion doctors deserve the death penalty had the compassion to pass this law at all. Then again, maybe they were just trying to be cool--after all, 47 other states have already joined the No Cockfighting Club (the lone holdouts are Louisiana and New Mexico).

Anyway, the attorney for the "sports enthusiasts" claimed that the law would prevent people from enjoying birds in their natural habitats. It was so vague, the lawyer claimed, that people could be arrested for watching bluejays fight in their backyards. Because "all birds fight by nature."

But what Mr. Behavioral Ecologist doesn't know is that fighting in nature rarely results in actual death or maiming. Fighting in nature is mostly posturing, the animal equivalent of trash-talking. Lots of shoving, wing-flapping, teeth-flashing, hackle-raising--you get the idea (note: hackle-raising and wing-flapping sold separately). Usually in nature you don't find animals with WEAPONS STRAPPED TO THEIR HEADS, and even when you do, as in the case of deer, rams, etc., the antlers/horns are used to wrestle, not slash.

Speaking of total shitheads, you can now buy a tourist package in Norway that will let you, personally, kill a baby seal.

It's nice to feel morally superior to at least some Europeans for a change.

P.S.: Even if you were somehow compelled to bet on backyard bluejay battles, how could you tell which was which? It's hard to get them to wear those shiny shorts.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Scary Monsters Super Creeps

Warning: Do not look at the following link while sitting at home alone at night. You have been warned. By this warning.

Okay, go ahead and look. But come back afterward to share the fear.

Welcome back. Yeah, that was my reaction, too.

I think having a doll custom-made to look like your kid could be the subject of an entire library full of horror novels, so I won't even go there. Here are some plots for novels of other genres:

Mystery/Thriller: A My Twinn(registered trademark) doll goes to the Doll Hospital for a makeover and winds up "broken." Her wise-cracking private investigator/bounty hunter Human Counterpart infiltrates the hospital, only to discover that the doll-killer's real target is...herself.

Literary: Protagonist, who left his tight-knit family to move to the opposite coast and become a writer, comes home to help his resentful sister take care of their dying mother. He discovers that his My Twinn(R) doll has replaced him in his mother's favor because "he's always there" for her.

Romance: Spunky divorce attorney Clarissa Lamont has met her match: the Machievellian Trent Montgomery will fight to the death for his client's right to keep custody over her children and their corresponding My Twinn(R) dolls. Will Clarissa fall prey to Trent's wiles, or will her own client (played by a winsome Jeff Bridges) steal her heart with his deep emotions and charming though infantile fixations?

Submit your own My Twinn(R) plotline! I'll give a $5 gift certificate for the online bookstore of your choice to the winners in the following categories: 1) Funniest 2) Most Believable and 3) Most Likely to Keep Me Sleeping With the Lights On for Three Weeks Straight.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

See you at Windycon

If anyone happens to be in the Chicago area this weekend (and who isn't? I mean, come on), stop by the Wyndham O'Hare Hotel for one of the best science fiction/fantasy conventions in the country, Windycon.

This year's Author Guest of Honor is Robert Sawyer, who has won both the 1995 Nebula(TM) award for Terminal Experiment and the 2003 Hugo Award for Hominids, which I just read a few weeks ago. It's an incredible story about the intersection between our universe and a parallel one in which Neanderthals became the dominant human species. When Neanderthal quantum physicist Ponter Boddit accidentally ends up in "our" Ontario, wacky hijinks ensue. No, not really, it's a serious yet entertaining book, the first in a trilogy. The second installment, Humans, is even better. The third one, Hybrids, is sitting on my coffee table, calling me right this moment.

Anyway, there'll be lots of cool programming, as well as an art show, parties all night long, and much much more.

Okay, the voice of Hybrids is getting louder, and is now accompanied in a rousing string section by a delicious cup of cocoa.

Monday, November 08, 2004

Aurora Borealis playing NOW!

On the off chance any of you are awake right now, go outside and look north. If it's clear, you should be able to see the Aurora Borealis, or Northern Lights. It's amazing! It kind of comes and goes in intensity, so if it seems faint, wait around a bit and it might get stronger. Right now it's greenish blue with some red farther up in the sky. This is something you rarely if ever see south of Canada--could be a once in a lifetime opportunity. And it's free!

If you're reading this in the morning, take a look tonight and check NASA's to see if things are looking active.

This was one of three things I wanted to see before I die. A whooping crane in the wild and the Cubs winning the World Series are the other two.

Thursday, November 04, 2004

I've noticed something about myself

It is impossible for me to stand still while brushing my teeth.


This Side of Salvation

This Side of Salvation, Jeri's new contemporary YA novel!

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“A smart, well-rounded, and unpredictable tale...bringing to light issues of belief versus free will, spirit versus body, and family versus self.” —Booklist, **Starred Review**


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Jeri Smith-Ready

Jeri Smith-Ready is a Maryland author of books for teens and adults.

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